90% of the world’s goods transportation is seaborne and the share is projected to grow until 2030. This fact has lead to a rise in terms of container throughput. On the other hand, the shipping industry has always been focusing on ports and it has always been strictly reactive to demand unable to forecast it in advance. On average, 40% of the total shipping time ships spent waiting in ports, due to the current “first come — first served” slot allocation system.
Digitization that has revolutionized many industries for years could address some of the aforementioned issues in the logistic sector. One market sector that could benefit immensely from digital logistics includes small and medium enterprises (SMEs). With digital solutions, the latter ones could enhance the speed of their business processes, gain access to real-time freight-rates and track their cargos, avoid outsourcing and overspending on logistics because of excessive paperworks and integrate maritime transport with other transport means seamlessly.
Maersk is a global conglomerate that operates mainly in shipping and energy industries. It has been a leading global integrator of container logistics for decades. With one of its newest business lines Twill, a digital freight-forwarding platform offering SMEs complete online logistics management services, Maersk aims at pioneering in digital logistics as well.
Some of Twill’s features include flexible rate options, additional free days from container arrival at destination to return of empty containers, credit access, end-to-end service (Ocean Transport, Inland Transport and Customs House Brokerage Request), personalized profile, easy website navigation and dedicated global customer service team.
Currently, Twill’s key challenges are to:
- Find and engage with its niche market of small businesses.
- Understand and address prospect’s needs in terms of digital logistics.
Our team tried to help Twill tackle these challenges with service design methods during a consulting project implemented within the scope of the Master in Service Design, at Politecnico Di Milano. In a team of 5, we worked in 5 design sprints implemented throughout 2 weeks.
The key limitation for the solution was the implementation timespan. Twill was looking for a solution that would be executable in a short-run and without extensive resources.
Our approach was highly research-driven. We organized the sprints as follows:
Sprint 1: Desk Research + Field Research + Analysis
Sprint 2: Service Idea Generation
Sprint 3: Service Concept Selection + Definition
Sprint 4: Service Concept Development + Planning
Sprint 5: Service Concept Prototyping + Testing + Validation
We conducted both desk and field research. The research goals were to:
- Understand the overall logistics process and key concepts.
- Understand the main trends in the logistics industry.
- Understand the competitive landscape and each competitor’s positioning.
- Understand Maersk’s and Twill’s long-term goals and short-term objectives with Twill.
- Understand SME owners’ decision making process in regards to logistics.
- Understand SME’s main pain-points and needs with international logistics management.
Within the scope of our desk research, we conducted a systematic review of recent articles and industry reports, a competitive analysis based on the competitor list provided by the company, web and search log analytics. Within the scope of our field research, we conducted interviews with 16 Maersk employees, 12 prospect (SME owners) and implemented product trial with the demo account provided by the company.
Field Research Insights
Our key field research findings were the followings:
- SMEs lack logistic knowledge: from processes to terms and regulations.
- SMEs need to receive constant support from experts in order to manage their logistic activities.
- SMEs need to interact with an easy booking system that will allow them to handle their shippings in a simple and intuitive way.
- SMEs want to get a clear understanding about freight rates and be able to choose among tailored options.
- SMEs need to have their shippings guaranteed avoiding vessels’ overbooking problems.
- SMEs want to track their cargos and be sure their products will remain intact throughout the entire journey.
- SMEs need to have all their shipping documents properly managed and stored.
Desk Research Insights
- Currently, forwarders are solving users’ needs by providing more ancillary services, unlike Maersk and Twill. Since small enterprises lack knowledge and prefer to focus on their core business instead of keeping dedicated logistics personnel, they are still willing to pay premiums to get these services.
- The trend of digitization in all industries is accompanied with an increase in customer education initiatives that mostly go under marketing investment and have rather high ROIs.
- Despite the fact that technologies can support performance management in terms of cost savings and improving the performance of the vessel, the shipping industry is still far from being a fully digitized sector. Considering this, global retailers are implementing shipping into its supply chain so that they can manage and own multiple logistics service. However, this is not executable for SMEs with limited resources.
As a solution, we designed Twill Will, an integrated learning platform and counseling service to empower SMEs with full support and control of their supply chain. We envisaged Twill Will to be incorporated into Twill’s existing platform to make it easily executable and accessible for both the existing and new users.
The key features of the proposed service were the following:
- Free educational content available on the web platform to empower customers and nourish leads.
- Digital platform walkthrough for seamless onboarding.
- Individual logistics coaching and self-paced training programs from Maersk’s certified experts.
- Exclusive informative content after the first transfer with Twill.
How It Works
- The SME owner sees an announcement on social media, or gets contacted by Twill’s customer engagement employees with informative content and an invitation to have a first free kick-off meeting with Twill Will’s logistic coaches.
- The SME owner watches the interactive video walkthrough presenting Twill services and guiding through the main website functionalities and then decides to sign up.
- The SME owner can now learn about shipment processes and logistics. Twill Will section provides videos, webinars and articles from industry specialists and logistics experts, tailored to the customer’s need for updated and reliable information.
- The SME owner gets informed that he/she can also organize one-to-one counseling sessions with Twill logistics experts who will support them to build a complete shipment plan. The first meeting is for free,
- After the free meeting the SME owner can decide to become a premium client or pay for single sessions.
By solving the target market’s problem of knowledge gap in digital logistics and resulting hesitance to integrate logistics into their supply chains instead of relying on the expertise of freight-forwarders, the new service will directly address the Twill’s challenges of:
- Understanding and meeting current clients’ logistics needs, thus, increasing retention rates and customer lifetime value (CLV).
- Attracting and engaging with new clients in the niche market and communicating to them Twill’s value and ease-of-use.
To envision and plan for the delivery of our service and its integration to Twill’s existing platform, we created a system map. In the system map, we visualized the information flows, money flows and the actors involved in Twill’s to-be service ecosystem with the proposed Twill Will extension.
Based on desk research and approximate calculations, we created a service roadmap for the first launch of the service. As according to the brief, our main solution constraint was the execution time and in the idea selection phase we had prioritized the solution that could be implemented in a minimum period of time, our roadmap suggested that the first launch could be done in 3–6 months.
UX Design Process
Our UX design process was iterative and was comprised of storyboarding, user-flow mapping, paper prototyping, high-fidelity interactive prototyping, testing and video flow mockup prep.
Storyboarding and User Flows
Before diving into the flows, we wanted to understand the larger context of the service use and empathize with the users. To do this, we started with storyboarding.
We then identified two different user types:
- New users (people who have never used Twill)
- Twill’s existing clients
For each type, we created personas, envisioned separate flows and designed accordingly.
Prototyping and Testing
Based on the storyboards, paper prototypes and user flows, we designed an an interactive high fidelity prototype using Adobe XD. The prototype was tested with 5 participants using remote moderated usability testing technique with real-time conversation. Based on the participants’ feedbacks, the prototype was modified.
To take a look at each of our personas’ journeys, ensuring the contextual completeness and the smoothness of the flows and clarifying them for the client, we made a video mockup. The video showed the complete journeys of our two personas: the prospect and the current customer. This method turned to be also useful for making the business value of the solution explicit.
Challenges and Learnings
“The time spent on industry research is never wasted”
Logistics is a complicated industry and understanding even its basic aspects can be challenging for people who have absolutely no experience in it. Unsurprisingly, as a group of designers, researchers and analysts, we did not have an in-depth understanding of the field. Thus, we had to spend a lot of time in the exploratory phase to understand its nuances and processes. At the time, it felt painful and hard, but at the end, it paid off. We we were able to design a solution that considered both the business and consumer sides.
“Conflicts and blocks happen, don’t panic — visualize!”
During one of our sprints, when we were working on user flows, suddenly, we all seemed to be stuck. We couldn’t get consensus on the incorporation of the pricing aspects of the new service into the user interface and we spent nearly the entire working day just discussing it - no real work. The result of our over-discussion was that we started to question the initial concept and panicked that it was not good enough, needed rework and that we couldn’t make it in time. However, at some point, we decided just to stop discussing anything and start visualizing all our ideas working in a shared space. Magic happened. All the communication and mutual understanding barriers disappeared and we entered into a state of flow. We managed to put together all the pieces through collaborative visualization.
My responsibilities were user interviews, storyboarding, user flows, prototyping, testing, video mockup prep. To learn more contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org